Target: US Department of Justice
Goal: Investigate forced sterilizations in California prisons
A new report shows that doctors under contract with the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation sterilized nearly 150 female prisoners from 2006 to 2010. Sterilization requires special approval from top medical officials in Sacramento on a case-by-case basis, yet no request has ever been received. Ask the Department of Justice to investigate this treatment of female inmates, which can be constituted as cruel and unusual punishment.
Two prisons were offering this service to women: California Institution for Women in Corona and Valley State Prison for Women in Chowchilla, now a men’s prison. Former inmates and their advocates accuse prison medical workers in forcing women to undergo sterilization, often those who had multiple children already or those who were deemed likely to return to prison in the future. A former Valley State Prison inmate Crystal Nguyen worked in the prison’s infirmary in 2007. She reported that she often overheard medical staff recommend the procedure to women who had served multiple sentences. She told The Fresno Bee: “I was like, ‘Oh my God, that’s not right. Do they think they’re animals, and they don’t want them to breed anymore?”
Many complaints came from former prisoners. One of them is Kimberly Jeffrey. She said that in 2010 she was pressured by an obstetrician to receive tubal ligation (sterilization) while she was getting a C-section. She was sedated and strapped to a surgical table in Valley State Prison, serving time for a parole violation. She was horrified and resisted. Three years later, Kimberly is still haunted by the experience at the prison. She told The Fresno Bee that state prison officials “are the real repeat offenders. They repeatedly offended me by denying me my right to dignity and humanity.”
California has a long history of abusing people. Under the compulsory eugenics program between 1909 and 1964 California sterilized 20,000 men and women, mainly targeting minorities, disabled, mentally ill and criminals who were considered inferior. In the 1930’s Nazi Germany used this program as inspiration and sought the advice of California eugenics specialists.
Since 1994, tubal ligation required an approval from health care committee, yet it has not received one request from prison doctors to perform the procedure. Doctors were unaware even in 2010 that they needed official approval before going through with the operation. It is unclear who broke the law, but some people knew about the practice and kept silent. Urge the Department of Justice to investigate the matter in full and prosecute responsible parties.
Dear Mr. Holder,
The Center for Investigative Reporting has found that doctors contracted with the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation sterilized 148 female inmates from 2006 to 2010 without a required approval from top medical officials in the state capital. Reports from former prisoners and their advocates show that many women were coerced into the procedure. Doctors seemed to target women who already had multiple children or those who were deemed likely to return to the prison in the future.
Two prisons were offering this service to women: California Institution for Women in Corona and Valley State Prison for Women in Chowchilla, now a men’s prison. State law requires doctors to ask permission from the health care committee, which makes a decision on a case-by-case basis. Yet, no such requests were made to the committee since 1994, when it was established.
Forcing sterilizations on women constitutes “cruel and unusual punishment”, as established by US District Judge Thelton Henderson. Please investigate the matter of forced tubal ligations thoroughly and punish those responsible for this inhumane treatment of female prisoners.
[Your Name Here]